Editorial: For Vail Town Council, best choices in large field include incumbents
November 3, 2017
This year's Vail Town Council election has been one of the most interesting in a while, primarily due to the size of the candidate field — 10 people.
One of the remarkable things about that large group of people is that any one of the 10 would do anywhere between decent and very good work on the board. Some might take longer than others to get up to speed on council business. Some would be well-served by applying for a term or two on the Vail Commission on Special Events, the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission or another of the council's advisory boards.
Some seasoning is generally a good idea, because while the job itself doesn't pay much, the Vail Town Council sets policy for an organization that in 2018 will spend more than $78 million across all its varied budgets. That's a lot of responsibility, as is the fact that Vail is the heart of our valley's economic engine.
The people running to sit at the head of this organization are notable for a couple of reasons:
First, no one in this group is patently unsuitable for the job. That isn't always true in any field of candidates, much less a group this large.
Second, and perhaps more important, is the fact that no one appears to have a personal agenda in running. All want to play a role in making Vail a better place, both as a resort and a community.
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With that as prologue, only four people will be elected to the council Tuesday, Nov. 7. Our recommendation is to ask voters to stay the course, and also add a bit of new blood to the group.
The incumbents in this group, Greg Moffet, Jenn Bruno and Mayor Dave Chapin, have each earned another term in office.
In an interview with the Vail Daily Editorial Board, Chapin called the current council an "action council," and he's right. This group in the past two years has made important decisions, particularly about housing. Previous councils have set up this one for success, but this council has done what's been necessary to turn planning into action.
No matter the foundation laid by previous council members, the fact remains that the town of Vail has accomplished more for workforce housing in the past two years than previous officials did in the previous two decades.
The Lions Ridge apartments opened, and the first families will move into the for-sale Chamonix neighborhood this fall. Those town-supported projects are important, but more important action is on the way.
This council adopted the Vail Housing 2027 plan, which calls for the town to either build or acquire 1,000 deed restrictions in the next decade. The Chamonix units count as part of that ambitious number.
Other deed restrictions will come from the inventory of existing units as owners trade flexibility on future sales for cash, with the trade keeping those units more affordable, either at sale or as long-term rentals.
The town also has struck deals for nearly 100 deed-restricted apartments at a Marriott Residence Inn proposal in West Vail and purchased another 65 deed restrictions when Sonnenalp Properties redevelops the Solar Vail apartments.
This council has had to make some tough decisions, as well. The aforementioned Marriott Residence Inn drew heated opposition from several neighbors. Council members had to consider the future of the entire community in making the decision to approve a special development district for the project.
The town and the developers, the Harp Group, are still working on a development agreement for that project, and Harp Group president Peter Dumon has said he expects construction to begin either this fall or in the spring of 2018.
Another tough decision came with the rezoning of a parcel north of the Interstate 70 interchange in East Vail. Vail Resorts wants to use 5.4 acres of the site for workforce housing. Again, the council voted for approval over the sometimes-heated objections of the neighbors.
Both those decisions seem like good ones and have the potential to benefit the town in the future. When a developer chosen by Vail Resorts submits a plan for the East Vail parcel, those units will also count toward the 1,000-unit total.
Bruno, Chapin and Moffet all supported those actions.
This council also seems to be able to speak freely with one another — and members will sometimes show sharp disagreements. Yet the group works well together.
It's the sort of adult behavior that would be refreshing to see at the higher levels of our nation's political life.
Finally, with a new town manager, Greg Clifton, still a matter of weeks into his job, it's going to be this council's job to guide him in the finer points of life in Vail.
A new voice
While the three incumbents are worthy of more time in office, this election also gives Vail voters the opportunity to put a new voice on the council. Current council member Dick Cleveland opted to not seek another term, so there's a truly open seat on the seven-member board.
Of the seven remaining candidates, Brian Rodine is the best choice for a new voice on the board. Rodine and his wife have spent about eight years in Vail, enough time to get a good feel for the community.
The couple are also renters and have seen firsthand how the current trend of moving long-term rentals into the online rent-by-owner pool has affected the ability of people to live in town.
Rodine's experience working on sustainability projects for Vail Resorts has given him an opportunity to closely study how other resort communities tackle projects including recycling, energy use, transportation, connectivity and more. That's good knowledge to have.
Yes, Rodine works for Vail Resorts. He said without hesitation he won't let his day job get in the way of his public service and would have run no matter what company signs his paychecks.
Based on past experience of Vail Resorts employees seeking elective office in Vail, conflicts should be fairly rare. In particular, former council member — and mayor — Ludwig Kurz has served the town with distinction over many years with few, if any, questions arising about his career with the resort company.
Rodine, along with Bruno, Chapin and Moffet, will set up this council for even more positive action in the years to come.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Krista Driscoll and Business Editor Scott Miller.